Low immunity means your immune system, your protection against illness, is not working as well as it should. Also known as a weakened immune system, it may be a result of illness or unhealthy lifestyle factors. Some indications of low immunity include:
- Frequent colds and flus
- Frequent infections
- Constant allergies
- Bruise easily
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Difficulty sleeping
- Slow wound healing
The causes of low immunity are often due to a number of factors. Aside from cancer treatments and medications that can lead to suppressed immunity, a weakened immune response may be attributed to unhealthy lifestyle factors, such as:
- Poor diet that does not include enough fruits and vegetables
- Frequent alcohol consumption
- Too much sugar
- Lack of stress management skills
How to Support or Enhance a Low Immune System
Luckily, it is possible to enhance a lowered immune system with some lifestyle adjustments, and we all have the power to make these changes to become proactive players in our health. Some easy changes include altering the diet to support immunity, using nutritional supplements, adopting a small amount of daily exercise and curbing bad habits like smoking and alcohol consumption.
Incorporating many smaller changes can add up to an overall improvement in overall health and immune response. The following are just a few health promoting lifestyle changes to incorporate if you feel you are experiencing low immunity.
What to do About Low Immunity
Diet is one area where we enjoy the most control. Diet changes may seem daunting at first, but you don’t have to make all the changes at once. While some people do better with a complete overhaul, many find that incorporating small changes is more manageable. Small changes may help you create good habits without too much effort.
For example, abstain from eating restaurant and fast food for a while. Instead, replace your favorite foods with a healthier, homemade version. This allows you to control the amount of sugar and other ingredients that can inhibit immunity. At the same time, making your own foods allows you to use fresh ingredients, which have a higher nutritional value to support a healthier immune response.
Center your meals and snacks around fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. Whole foods that are less processed will provide more nutrients, aid your digestive system and support overall health. And since many pathogens end up in the gut, a healthy digestive system is imperative for a healthy immune response.
Exercise can help boost immunity. It increases circulation, which transports more oxygen and nutrients to all areas of your body, increasing the ability of your immune system to work. Increased body temperature as a result of exercise can help the body fight infections, and exercise also reduces stress hormones that can suppress immunity. (1) And it also appears that regular exercise helps increase the activity of cells that keep bacteria and other pathogens at bay. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, four to five days each week.
Nutritional Supplements are common home remedies for many who are proactively taking charge of their health. Many herbs have been used in traditional healing practices around the world for centuries and still hold true today, for good reason. They help many people feel healthier and more resilient during cold and flu season and, for some, even help shorten the amount of time they experience symptoms when they do get sick.
Some of the nutritional supplements that are used include elderberry, echinacea, goldenseal, zinc and vitamin C. They may be sold in a combination supplement or used individually. Most professional nutritional experts agree that a combination of these along with a healthy diet and plenty of rest are the best way to help boost a weakened immune system.
Hydrate your body for peak health, as our bodies are comprised of mainly water and fluids. Waste is carried out of the body through lymphatic fluid while nutrients are transported to all areas of the body through the circulatory system.
Lymph is the fluid that travels through your lymphatic system, which plays a major role in your immune system. Lymph transports oxygen through the body, helps remove waste materials, and transports white blood cells that neutralize or eliminate pathogens. It is mainly composed of water, and so relies on water intake to fully function. But improper hydration can result in a sluggish lymphatic system, which also means a sluggish immune response.
To ensure you are properly hydrated, aim to drink 25-50% of your body weight in ounces of fresh, pure water. Also eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as they contain their own water and help keep you hydrated while providing necessary electrolytes. For an added boost, try daily exercise as it helps hydrate your body while increasing circulation and improving electrolyte levels.
Stress Management is essential for overall health and proper immune function. Stress causes chemical changes in the body, affecting all facets of health including digestion and metabolism. Some stress is completely normal and natural as the body can readily bounce back into proper homeostasis. But prolonged stress can cause prolonged chemical changes that affect your health in a negative way.
Unchecked stress can alter gut bacteria leading to a lack of beneficial bacteria that is necessary for a healthy immune response. It also diverts blood away from your digestive tract and sends more to the brain and limbs for quick thinking and fleeing. But this further weakens digestion, metabolism and immune response. Lastly, stress puts strain on the circulatory system which can result in a greater risk for coronary heart disease.
To counter stress reactions, use active stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation or biofeedback. Yoga is used by many for stress relief and exercise. It is said the poses used during a session increases blood flow to certain organs while the practice of controlled breathing is a natural stress reliever. Meditation is widely used to reduce stress and even helps reduce anxiety and panic attacks. (2) Biofeedback is a way to become more aware of your physical responses to stress, possibly allowing you more control over them. (3)
Low immunity is a state that can be improved with healthy lifestyle choices. Fortunately, diet, exercise, proper hydration, nutritional supplements and stress management are all lifestyle factors within your control, and using them to your advantage can help you live and enjoy life while supporting a strong immune system.
1 Exercise and immunity: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2020, February 4). Retrieved February 15, 2020, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm
2 Carmody, James & Baer, Ruth. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of behavioral medicine. 31. 23-33. 10.1007/s10865-007-9130-7.
3 Ratanasiripong P, Kaewboonchoo O, Ratanasiripong N, Hanklang S, Chumchai P. Biofeedback Intervention for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression among Graduate Students in Public Health Nursing. Nurs Res Pract. 2015;2015:160746. doi:10.1155/2015/160746